2018 | Agonistic Engagement In Post-Migrant Societies

The phenomenon of transnational immigration of refugees fuels conflicts and debates in Israel and Germany, with many citizens of both countries considering the current increase of transnational immigration of refugees—from Africa in Israel and from Africa and the Middle East in Germany mainly—as a threat and a contested issue. Like in other parts of the world, the growing numbers of refugees in Israel and Germany foster contestations and conflicts, characterized by activities by refugees who struggle for participation, citizenship, and social rights; and citizens who call to restrict the numbers of refugees in particular cities or in the country as a whole. Most of these activities take the form of protest in both the public sphere and the physical space. By analyzing protest events from 2010 to date from political, media, and spatial perspectives, the proposed project will offer a critical assessment of the current actions associated with trans-border refuge seeking in public spaces, in both countries. Using the methodological approach of Protest Event Analysis (PEA) we developed a cross-national, cross-time-space, and cross-thematic analytical framework to explore contentious politics. The project addresses four key questions: What stimulates the protest? What are the spatial/political/social/media manifestations of protests? What are the dynamics and political rationalities linked to such protests? What practices does the nation state use to control protest and conflict?

The analysis of stimulation—the trigger for protests; manifestation—i.e., with regard to agency, space, and media; conflict—i.e., as perceived by different protagonists involved; and control—mechanisms used by the state to manage conflicts, will enable us to answer the overarching question of the project: whether and (if so) how do protest events against and by refugees and reactions by media, state authorities, and counter-protests related to them contribute to changing political orders? Thereby, we will empirically explore the concept of Chantal Mouffe on the agonistic political order, an approach receptive to the multiplicity of voices and struggles in contemporary pluralist societies and to the complexity of their power structures. The empirical research will include three key phases: A. data collection regarding protest events; B. Analyzing Spatial, Media and Political Dimensions of Protest; and C. multi-level analysis. An additional phase D will be dedicated to the conceptualization of agonistic engagement by and against refugees’ immigration, framing the idea of agonistic orders and its relevance in the context of contemporary societies, as well as offering insights for policies in addressing conflicts along competing groups in civil societies.

As a whole, this project posits ideas at the frontier of social sciences theoretically by addressing the concept of agonism and the place of political action in general and of political protest in particular; empirically by offering new ways to approach and conceptualize agonistic engagement with specific attention to the issue of civil participation and conflicts around issues of refuge seeking; and methodologically by investigating protests by and against transnational refugee immigration from an interdisciplinary approach—including political sociology, media analysis, and urban studies—by looking at urban space, media coverage/use, and political agency.

Support for this project was provided by GIF- German Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development


  • PIs: Tali Hatuka (Tel Aviv University), Tanja Thomas (University of Tübingen), Fabian Virchow (University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf).
  • Project Coordinators: Miryam Wijler (Tel Aviv University), Jule Henning (University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf), Merle-Marie Kruse (University of Tübingen).